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Very big thumbs up for this process - I love your condensed form of writing and I wish more people would use this process! Especially the "arguments against those thoughts" part.
Love the process (funny and true!) I've been recently just recording me talking about the subject out loud and then later writing a summary with key points with some elaboration. Works so far...
So, you’re saying there’s more than one step... hmm. May need to assess my process! Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful points Derek
:) Loved it! "Leave it for a few days or years"
I do something very similiar whenever I need write an important letter whether it's a thank you or whatever. I never am satisfied with my first draft, so to speak. And if it's an email, I won't send it until I have a chance to re-read it....in a day or week or whatever. For myself, whenever I write a heartfelt thank you, the letter should bring the feeling I write into the letter, usually the emotion is tears. About a month ago, I finally (had wrote the letter in my mind a few times) wrote a heartfelt letter to my pain management doctor thanking him for doing so much for me. And I know he read my letter and had the reaction I had written into it. He stepped into the room I was in and said thank you and gave me a hug. The nurses were surprised as they had never seen him like that before and I know they must have known I said something very special.
I've read many Seth Godin posts which are all short but almost always convey an interesting insight. I love them, but off the top of my head I can remember two or maybe three ideas from them. It's possible that a bunch of them are stuck in the back of my head and form my thinking without me noticing, I certainly hope that's the case but I wonder if there is a psychological effect similar to pricing going on after all. When something cost us a lot of money, we tend to value it more. Hearing advice from people we respect is more likely to make an impact than the same advice from someone we don't know, even if they provide convincing arguments. And I wonder if we don't also intrinsically value a big book more than a blog post more than a tweet, even if the basic idea could be conveyed in one? And thus, said idea might be more likely to take roots in our thinking?
Derek: More or less my process expect I write by hand, then onto my computer and self edit. Let it sit for a day or two then I'll re-read, edit and finish. Old school guy here when writing. Gus
I've come to realize just how much writing is a part of my job as a jazz vocalist. There's always the need for thank-you notes, proposals, bios, PR, press releases, teaching, etc. etc. It's quite taxing for me. Over time I've learned to edit down, and to imagine all the possible reactions there can be and try to address them in advance. There I go.... being too wordy again! Anyway, your outline is good, thank you. -Rebecca
Have you read “A technique for producing ideas”?
Ah but how do you come up with the subject?
Mini version of a thesis statement. I like the method. I’ll try it!
Excellent. Among your writings, I love this: "(I’m a student, not a guru.)" It could exist without parentheses. Peace to you, Cat
I love this! This is why I always click your links in my inbox becuase I know I can get a gem in under 60 seconds
Sort of the way I write music!
Haha .... the messy pile of thoughts :)
How meta! Love it and you, Derek!
something to think about: your trash is everyone else's treasure.
Doesn't it feel good when you write #7? This process is an encouragement to me. When I go to write some code, there's the requirements and what's needed this quarter... Then there's the architecture that will probably be needed.... When I go through the pain of 3-5, 7 is such a thrill to write. Because I know it is small enough to do now, and it doesn't paint me or anyone else into a corner later. I think you do something similar with your writing. After all, "It's still too soon to tell.", but we can always do as much consideration as possible to decide what's simplest.. ☺
This process is what made your book so amazing to read. I love how you distill all your thoughts down like this - Thank You!
"Leave it for a few days or years", thats awesome! Takes the pressure off of trying to force something that may need time to germinate or else be ruined. Love this concept!
Its a great process for subject of, let's call it "general Advice". The output summary is fantastic for most people because everyone has an extremely short span of attention these days. I've been thinking about writing about the science of audio engineering and have attempted it in form of power point presentations. The unfortunate part for me is that when deep subjects are highly summarized, then no one really gets it. They understand the sentences, but will not have a real understanding of the subject. So , now I am thinking about videos with sound samples.
Hello Everybody, Sounds brave and bountiful. Opposite of fearful. The poor and fearful artists won't create more lyrics/photos/pics/ideas than they need to, because they are afraid they don't have any extra ideas. Or else they are afraid of work. They won't challenge or explore much, because they are afraid that if they delete or change then they won't come up with anything as good a second time. Writing this in 2018, during our war, I laugh to think of a Muslim extremist trying to "explore," or be comfortable with "messy." No, the fundamentalist mentality is the opposite of the artistic. (As students, the killers always get degrees in something left brain, like medicine or engineering, never the liberal arts, according to a Muslim who has studied them for 20 years) Surely as a writer/person/artist walks further along the path the fear subsides and then there is a greater willingness to trash. To me, writing concisely is like speaking concisely in meetings, or taking notes in college: It doesn't take long to gain a basic competency once you resolve to learn how. Some advanced ideas: But like a musician who can at last do his doublings and trills too fast, you may at last need to ease off on the conciseness to add some grace. A commenter mentioned Seth Godin. I don't retain Seth's stuff, and I never go back to it, especially if I try to read several of Godin posts in a row, because for me there's no grace or music. (That's just me, I also prefer limburger cheese to Doritos) To me the best writing, such as a good essay, is like what Stanley Kubrick said about a good movie: worth taking in twice.
"For any unnecessary word you can find in my monologue, I'll pay ya $5. Cuz that's worth $100 to me" An old vaudevillian. Great piece, Derek !
Do you always type or do you dictate into your phone or recorder? Being a GED diploma person. I find it hard To communicate my thoughts clearly. Will implement you process and see if that helps Thanks Eric
The true fundamentals always remain, undoubtedly. I super-enjoy your economic way to transfer ideas.
Your timing is always perfect especially when I’m in the middle of a writing project. Thank you Derek
Great stuff, Derek, you rock! In freshman Lit class at Rutgers, I had a TA who told us at the beg of class to write all you can write on one topic. With 5 min left in the class, he would tell us to critique our essay, then summarize it in 50 words or less. Best class I ever had.
I like this - doing what you write. I think most writers do this, but they never get to #7. That one is called "trusting your readers."
That's cool Derek. Distilled value. I love it. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Derek! I'm teaching a business writing class today in Fresno,California, and I'm reading your tiny blog during my lunch hour. The words tiny and writing prompted me to open your email right now. Tiny made it seem easy and brief to look at during my break. Writing simply hit the nail on the head. My professional participants will hear your blog from me this afternoon. Encouraging! Thanks again, John
What was your approach for the youtube videos? I'm currently starting a new channel and thought would just write the thoughts out and talk them into the cam... doesn't really work.For my TED talks, it's about the same, except step 6 would be “Remove everything that isn't surprising” — Derek
I also rewrite letters and emails. I can put aside for a week or so, but never have attempted a few years! Something to aspire to, Derek!! Love you always!
Thanks for sharing, Derek! If it works for you, work it... until you're ready for something else!
I like your characterisation of "arguing against" thoughts before posting them publicly. Once we try to get a concept out of our head and onto the paper or screen, all of the gaps in our thinking become obvious. It's so useful to winnow down our thoughts by writing them out. Do you have any method for writing your journal?
Nice timing Derek. I was about to start doing some writing (memoirs for my kids). It will give me a whole new insight in the content now,Thanks Derek.
This is a great process for ANY form of writing. I need to take your advice on #7. I always save previous drafts, even though it's pointless. It's like artistic hoarding. :P
No doubt this will sound very familiar to writers and other creative's ...
#1: "Write [ALL] my thoughts on a subject." That's what I try to do as well. Condensing and scrubbing come later. I also like your suggestive photo of the three bins.
I think this is a powerful approach, like the word distillation involved in Haiku 俳句.
love it! I need to adopt some of that behavior before I OCD myself to death
Great post as always. My key is to brain dump, then walk away for a good period of time, seems to work for me! Thanks again Derek!
YES! Derek I totally agree with you on this process. Thanks for sharing and a good reminder to oneself on track with this process. Thank you for your time, TerryLee Music4Winds
This kind of mental purging is a necessary process toward honing a concise idea. Thank you for sharing.
This kind of mental purging is a necessary process toward honing a concise idea. Thank you for sharing.
I can wait to read some of your ideas that have been brewing for years.
SHORT! LOVE IT!
I appreciate and am grateful for the thoughtfulness in your writing.
Thanks, Derek. I like it. It's kinda like mine, but organized and written out ;)
Enjoyed reading your process
“For a few years” is the operative term. I’m potentially in one of those grooves right now. Thank you for this.
It would be fun to see an actual example from this process.
It would be fun to see an actual example from this process.
Nothing left to trash except the bones of the stuff. Love it.
Have you thought about putting the trash into an AI to see what garbage (?) it produces?
Thanks for reducing some of my dread, Derek. This is probably the most helpful (short, sweet, & simple) piece I've come across to help with getting my writing process more organized. Cheers!
My method is to: 1) jump in with whatever it is that I'm writing about and say a bunch of stuff, letting my thoughts lead wherever they lead (which is often rambling and off topic) 2) Get to a point where I realize I'm rambling w/o actually saying much 3) Try to get back on track and arrive at a conclusion to my meandering 4) Go back and carve out the extraneous stuff 5) Call it done
Ha ha.. sounds like my songwriting process.. it seems like such a painful process at times.. thx for sharing :~)
Wow...I think that is very thourogh of you and impressive....It makes me think...and think...and...actually the idea of Words...each word..what it means...how it affects us..WORDS..that are said well.⛅😊😃😀😋💃
Isn't it amazing, when you write something and you set it aside and the next morning you see it differently and how much more clear your thoughts are to improve it. Or start over; but with a fresh perspective.
Hey Derek, as always, good stuff. Can you please stop making things so simple as it makes my over-complication of the world seem completely unnecessary and irrational :) Hope you're well and Fame as a verb will stick.
This is super informative. I love it. ..and am going to now try it out. Hope that is okay!!
I usually start with #8.
Great ideas! I took a two year break from song writing and recording and it's nice to be shown another approach.
Makes sense to be well organized.
Love it! Would you be able to post an example of a blog post that used this writing process? Would be great to see how you format each step (specifically steps 1-3)
I always love your clarity of thought and how you use simple English to communicate great insights
Dear Derek, Of all the Influencers I've paid attention to, you are one of the few that seems Real to me. I appreciate your frank, giving, I'm-here-for-you posts. As a "recovering" English Major I remember being taught to start with an outline. I will be thinking about how you make it the end product and how you put big effort into coming up with something tiny. Write on!
Derek! Have you ever come across a little book called https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13155290-several-short-sentences-about-writing ??? I think you'd appreciate it! I like the seven points you posted. But #5 is problematic. The butterfly doesn't need to hate the cocoon to leave it. It got you there... --Ben
Huge fun of the way you deliver meaningful insights through your direct, yet clear writing style. It would be great to get a peak into your programming process.
A true artist! I LOVE IT! - B
Classic! I love this!
I wish our news media, our classrooms, general writing classes etc. used these seven principles. I love your simplicity.
The process is through and sound. However , do you ever leave a chance of an accident or spontaneous Thought to crack through the process.
I LOVE the trash can picture!
Could you please ask Donald Trump to do the same?! Great advice, thanks.
A structured process is required to make anything a habit :)
8. Rinse and repeat
Derek the Great! Question. How do you "Argue against those ideas" Do you have two columns one for and one against? Or is it more just a thought process? HUGE fan of your condensed writing style.Just a thought process. No columns. It's all just a plain text file, and I let my fingers fly. — Derek
Thanks for sharing. One thing I've found works best for me is to start with your Step #1. Then strip it down, cut out the extraneous, and throw out all the excess until I am left with distilled bareness. Then modify where needed -- just enough to make it flow like a song. And often what I feared would be too "simple", ends up saying more than I ever could have imagined.
Seems like a lot of steps, and would take away the joy of writing?! I prefer to write from the heart, with a little editing as I go. If the writing doesn't flow easily, and instead needs to be forced, then I let it go, and do something else more productive for a while, then come back to the writing later.
Trashing is hard. But necessary.
Can you please send this to the White House:) I know someone who could learn from this.
Hi Derek, I posted on the timeline from facebook (ifudofhumanrights) thanks, Best Regards Jan
If Stephen King read this, he'd applaud you like crazy. Love this.
Enjoyed your post, thank you. I need to be more diligent when writing emails. Best regards,
Hello Derek. I enjoyed all your articles this time. It addresses some of the "how to" issues which were missing from the question of how to make money from music last time. Recently two of my friends I hadn't spoken with for years asked me to send a recording - both are no longer musicians. One said he really liked my track and asked if had released it. I gave him a list of the tracks I had also released on CD Baby. The other said it sounded like Carlos Jobim. Nothing else happened. I haven't experienced much financial success from recordings. I write, arrange, sing and record songs and play sax, guitar and clarinet. It's all like writing a book without an advance. I released a sax and keyboard album called "Wright at the Poolside" (also on CD Baby) which did reasonably well for some reason in Australia but my keyboard player retired before the we could follow up. I noticed that promotion stopped me doing music. Live work and teaching still works but not for original material as yet. I've been doing open-mic nights to gain confidence on guitar and voice as well. I have the impression people don't want to pay for music.
derek for me it's completely different I'll see something while I'm out or something on the news or family life of birth or deaths which affects me but I don't sit down and write right away it will just come to me sometimes weeks or months later always the melody first and more or less the jist of the lyrics but like you iv'e got songs with melodies and part lyrics that I done years ago
Was at health club : swim, running lengths also then sauna and leg raises .Sometimes we leave the door slightly open but there is one guy who doesn't,t agree, we leave it open so we can chat longer and it still is extremely hot. Anyway just throwing out about trashing idea..i was lying down and first time I thought of the word enlightenment in the spa, usually its outside or on videos i watch but i thought i,d mention this to the next person entering the sauna. We strung up a conversation but i,m not sure if i was a good idea. I reflected back and wonder sometimes if I should have just kept quiet ..i got the feeling , maybe he though i was chasing him up because he mentioned his son very quickly in the conversation? But overall the conversations in the sauna have been okay and very mixed group of people.
Stimulating as always. Like that you argue against your own thoughts.
Nice post, Derek. Maybe "compost" is a better word than "trash," using "compost" as a verb. You are not exactly trashing your early creations;nor are you merely recycling them. Rather, you are sending them back to the "earth" with the faith that some new thought may sprout from them some day. Nothing is wasted!
I feel like this is going on inside my head all the time, I just haven’t gotten to steps 6 &7 yet.
Great stuff as always! Love #4 being extended to years ... reminds me of something that Stephen King wrote in his chapter of "Writers on Writing" ... he writes as quickly as he can without thought of editing his own thoughts and once he has a first draft completed, he sticks it in a drawer for at least six months, but the longer he can ignore it the better. Then he just reads it as if it is "fresh" and starts to make the brutal edits that he knows it needs.
Haha, feels like bullet-pointized broetry Derek. Certainly helps with today's short attention span. Anyhoo. I loved ti so keep pounding 'em. Cheers, Dez
Taking a lot of time to write certain (important) personal messages is a great way for me, finding out more about myself, my feelings and my inner truth finally: do I have stable thoughts and feelings within the writing process? do I change sentences or verbalization a hundred of times because of some reason - what reason could that be? is writing to somebody or about a topic a workflow bringing or wasting energy? do I get new ideas and positive thoughts while writing or it is a top-down vicious circle ...and so on. What I want to leave here: focusing on the semantics of your text is not necessarily the same as paying attention to your inner movements and emotional relations to the text in the moment of its creation. I learn most about my inner truth, when watching myself while expressing words. That's even more important when verbalizing, before writing something down. This is why I love to take a lot of time on free bad weather days, putting as much attention as possible watching myself while writing and taking my inner world into consideration. Because of that, it can take minutes, hours or even days to build up an opinion or make an important decision. The more important a person for me, the more I'm enjoying spending time for above mentioned reflection. Writing this text was simply fun and took about 10 minutes - greetings from Austria to everybody!
Hi Derek, Always good to hear from you. This is because you're a Musician and Song-writer and HIT songs are not written but, RE-WRITTEN. It's kind of inbuilt into your character.Ha! Yeah I used to do about the same process for songwriting. I'd write 20 different verses to come up with 2 good ones. — Derek
GOOD DAY HOW CAN I GET SOME MORE AIR PLAYS ON RADIO WITH PUBLISHING
Super Process. I was looking for what was missing in my process and this helped me get the missing links.
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Nice process Derek! People that don't write very often do not realize that you need a process of re-writes to help clarify your thoughts, punctuation and vocabulary... After 23 screenplays, mostly comedy, the latest "Endorphin Man and Little Sara Tonin". I figure I have spent 10 years in a room rewriting. Crazy huh? I never thought I would make 120. Verisimilitude Man Nicky Shane
Love this! Just one quick question: Do you always perform each step as a separate process? Or do steps (e.g. arguing against ideas while exploring different angles) sometimes blend together? For me, depending upon what I write, and my current frame of mind, certain steps will tend to merge.
Of only people edited their words before speaking. How many meetings can you say...not a wasted word.
Hi, Derek, It doesn't matter how any one individual writes. Every single writer I've ever heard talk about this does it differently. It's a very individual thing. When I write, I just write. I'm not comfortable writing up an outline first, as one writer, who gave a seminar, insisted one had to do first! I think writing to an outline is a learned skill. Personally, on exams, when we were required to produce an outline first, I faked it by leaving enough space, writing the piece and then compiling the outline. Isaac Asimov, who wrote over 500 books in his lifetime, never used an outline. I think he planned his writing out during his research and in thinking before he put pen to paper. I hope this is of some help to someone, somewhere. Meantime, thanks for doing this, and keep on doing it! Regards, - Marian
love it!!! I'm doing that with my life! ☺
Sounds like you're doing your taxes! -only more creative. I'm sure this process has saved you from writing something which could have been misinterpreted and from automatic word correction. I can't seem to keep from changing what I write almost every time I reread it.e
Like the process
Hi Derek. I do this too (not that you need to know that haha) But sometimes, just sometimes, after I have sat on that messy pile of abandoned thoughts for days or years, I stumble upon a gem that I once dot-pointed the hell out of, and feel a pang of regret that I cut it back to the bone. Reading it again, years later, the words roll off the end of their sentences so beautifully. And yet I didn't see it. Not then anyway. At the time I thought no one would read it because it was either too long... too deep ... too much... or whatever ... when in truth it was just right ... and I should have left it alone and let the words speak for themselves for as long as it took for the right reader to find them. This does sound a bit like the story of Goldilocks doesn't it? I am aware of that. Love your stuff btw. You are just [so darned] right. Thank you! Jean x
Hi Derek, thanks for the notice. Ah.. the process.. the process is all ! Having begun reading (or at least dipping into) a most entertaining book, 'The subtle art of not giving a f***', by Mark Manson, I was reminded of the importance of taking the first step.. 'doing something' - action is not always the result of inspiration, but can be the source of the inspiration.. nice.
Nice! I tend to write songs in a very similar way. I often use Blake Snyder's beat sheet to structure my outline. http://www.savethecat.com/beat-sheets/stay-by-kazr-beat-sheet
Reminds me of a video I watched in which Nancy Duarte and Daniel Roam discuss their processes. It is similar to what you outlined. Roam gave an example of how to create elegant, effective graphics and slides. Start with a sketch. Write a caption for it. Keep the caption, pitch the sketch. Sketch again, using the caption as the guide. Take the new sketch, write a new caption based on the new sketch. Keep the caption, pitch the sketch. Repeat the process until the sketch is suitable for publication and the caption is as tight as it can be. The birth of a beautifully-articulated idea, whether it be graphic or written (or spoken, for that matter), results from a cycle of death and rebirth. Like I said, similar. Not the same, but similar. Great minds and all that!
Agree with all steps. Personally when writing I also add researching my thoughts for validity. Which may be what you meant by arguing against those ideas. Hope all is well in your world.
Very similar to my songwriting process!
Derek, To some extent you could have a #8 7. Bounce the provisional product against others 8. Post
Reduce to the bare bones ... the way you live your life. Impatience often presses "post" too early in process. "Leave it for a few days or years ..." is sage advice.
Thanks for sharing this, Derek. It's something I'm always curious about. :)
A good and effective process. Merci Beaucoup
Interesting. In school, I was taught to begin with an outline, and then write an expansion of the outline. But nobody taught me that we end with the outline of the key points. This is a game changer.
Derek, you always come up with the answers many of us are looking for. I need to discipline my thinking a little more. Thanks for sharing.
Love it ! Simple and short processes
Where you say "hate the messy pile of thoughts" are you criticising or disliking your process? Do you mean to say you react against steps 1-4 that results in the brief outline produced in 5?
As a fellow INTJ, I think mine is very similar. going to just fire off the hip 1. Write down ideas (daily) 2. move idea into a hopper (weekly) 3. once time occurs to check hopper, move ideas into best/worst (monthly) 4. grab best ideas and extend them until sick, re-visit another day and tweak/audit (quarterly) 5. grab worst ideas and make better or throw away (6month) 6. get frustrated at the amount of ideas and do a yearly cleaning (12month) 7. repeat
Hi Derek, Very much agreed with you! My professor at graduate school said "omit needless words " from time to time. And, it's very similar to the composition process as well ...
Love it. I'm a bit of a 'get it dashed off and send it merchant'. As you will know, that can back-fire quite spectacularly. I'll give this a go. Thanks Derek.
LOVE It!! If we all decided to live life so simply, the world would be a better place. Hope you are well Derek, my friend! Love ya....
I like it! ...and clearly it works! I have always wanted to write -- i think :) Have started two books, but wonder if talking into a tape recorder would be better/easier,Many people, including Tony Robbins, do it like that : just hit record and talk talk talk, then let an editor clean it up. — Derek
I follow 1, 2, & 3, but only wait minutes or hours before posting, as my subject matter is generally far less important. The thing that I learn from your post, is the realization that I AM arguing against the subject, looking at the angles, and reducing the words. Thank you so much for that! I spent 5 minutes on this, later I may regret it, and will have learned another thing, number 4.
Damn... that's concise.
I can see why you're so successful, Derek. I never have taken it that far. LOL
Derek, I have a very similar process for songwriting. Half of my tunes get thrown out most of the time! Thank you for posting your detailed writing process for us. You rock. We are very similar Derek, except, when you write something new, money and fans from around the world surround you, meanwhile, my creations sit in the far, dark corner of the web. I keep on trying to reach more fans without shelling out money for advertising and I truly appreciate everything I can learn from you, Derek! Thanks for inspiring all the artists in the world to keep creating! Trey:)
I enjoy your shortened forms so much that I'd love to see longer versions sometime. Your trash can is lucky.
...looks like there may be lyrics to a song in there somewhere...
For Eric (and others too) at #25 with trouble, "hard to communicate my thoughts" clearly: I myself am an oral learner, to the extent that my boss has said so, and a classmate said so when I was teaching a short small-group seminar. But despite being oral, I don't think I would advise a recording device. Because you are wondering whether to use a recorder or a typewriter: I would advise to you type, or even handwrite. For me, doing so, I would not only hear my printed words aloud, but I would see them too, making it harder to kid myself about whether I am unclear. Your eye will fill in typos or missing words, unfortunately, but still it will be hard to miss any gross jumps in logic or failure to make connections when you can see things right on the page. You know how during Hollywood filming they will use a clacker and say, "Scene two, take seven."? That sort of devotion to trying seven times is what I am willing to do. Orally, if I am sitting on a bus or walking along trying to think of how to explain something, I will happily keep doing another "take" to get it better. On the page, many years ago, I would mark up my page (double spaced) until it was too hard to read, then re-type it, and then start marking it up again. Common editing marks include cut and paste, swap these two parts, delete and replace, and expand on abbreviation. I have not needed such efforts for years now. Why? Because being clear and concise is a "learned skill" that ordinary folks, using ordinary sentences, can learn to do. (And I've learned to talk on my feet, in a meeting, without any rambling, too) I write and speak like a simple newspaper writer would (not like a skilled literary guy) and it has been such a joy to get good at it. I can also reccommend, for ordinary people seeking how to be clear, the world-wide public speaking club for volunteers, Toastmasters International, where guests can attend for free. Only a quarter of the meeting is prepared speeches, the rest is includes speaking on your feet. People learn by role modelling off others. It's lots of fun.
This changed my whole writing pursuit
So many long essays in the comments section! They didn't follow the process this time?
Love it! Made me think how long was this post, just before you reduced it and hit post.. :)
I have already done essay-comments, so here's just a mere morsel: A businessman once said if had only one tool, it would be a pen and paper to manifest thoughts. I think folks who missed out on higher education could get a lot of the benefits if they did steps 1,2,3. This slow manifesting could produce not only a broadminded liberal arts type thinking, but something else: An inclination one to be duly humble of others who are doing their own thinking. I was careful not to make the above too short. If Aesop tried any soundbites, they have not stood the test of time.